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New GTR is tour-iffic

By David Neely

Kawasaki didn’t just get it quite right with its first grand tourer a few years ago.

For a start the factory forgot about heated grips, a must for any long distance motorcycle and then there were other niggles.

The screen was too small, not sufficient wind protection and cross winds affected the handling among some of the issues. So the Big K listened to the feed back from owners and dealers and the improved mark 2 version, which I’ve just finished testing, has set out to rectify all the perceived issues.

The factory has also gone a step further with one of the most sophisticated traction control systems of any machine on the market today. It steps in automatically when the rear wheel starts to spin. And yes, there are now heated grips.

The 1400 GTR started life as a ZZR1400, one of the fastest production bikes on the market today. At least its engine came from that machine but it has been heavily revamped and remapped to make it more suitable for touring.

There’s a new frame and, almost as importantly, a shaft drive system (Tetra Lever), something the majority of long distance bikers demand. The bars are well raised for comfort but the angle of the knees of both rider and pillion are more angled than is normal in a tourer.

The first surprise when on board is the ignition system. There’s no key, with a control fob in your pocket the ignition picks up the signal from it and you simply turn a switch in the centre of the console to on. A similar set up is used by some car manufacturers.

It works well, however, when you want to open the 35 litres panniers, which come as standard and each takes a full face helmet, you have to take a key from the control fob to do so.

Looking at the specs before I set off on Phillip McCallen’s demo bike from his Lisburn showrooms, I was surprised at the weight of the machine. It tips the scales at just over 300 kg, just about the heaviest in its class.

But I was soon to discover that so well balanced is the bike that the weight never became an issue, either in slow corners or else when moving it from the side stand to upright on ground which fell away.

Despite the size of the four cylinder 1352cc engine, there wasn’t as much torque as I was expecting. The performance figures are 136bhp at 8,700 rpm and torque of 136 Nm at 6,200 rpm.

To hurry it along, and this is where the fun part really comes in, you use the six speed box extensively. Accelerate hard through the gears and you will be rewarded with thrust that will literally hurtle you forward. Top speed, where legally obtainable, of course, should be in the region of 160.

The revised electric screen gives lots more protection over the old one. The fairing lowers do well to deflect the wind off the rider’s legs.

All my miles were covered on dry roads, terrific, no complaints about the weather here, and that gave the opportunity to try the bike and its brakes, wavy discs front and rear, harder than would have been possible in the wet.

The suspension was firm on poor surfaces, I’m sure it could have been softened but I was enjoying myself too much to stop. On occasion the brakes, ABS is standard, had to be pulled quite hard but were still well up to the job. I rode it solo and two up, and even with a stiff wind coming in off the sea the bike was not unsettled.

The handling, considering the weight, is exceptionally good, if any prospective buyer has been put off by the weight my advice is to try the demo. You’ll be surprised. The best advice I can give anyone is always to test all the rivals in any class, no matter whether super sportster or cruiser.

The tank holds 22 litres and to help boost the mpg figure the GTR has an ECO mode setting which gives a claimed 10% better return. Ridden hard without this setting sees the mpg figure drop to the mid 30s but on ECO it becomes a more realistic figure in the mid 40s.

There’s a range of extras available, eg a 39 litre top box at £97.95 and a 47 litre at £125.95. A colour matched lid for this is extra. Bike colours are a candy neptune blue and a flat super black. The 1400GTR is priced at £12,699.

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